Imprisonment of William Smith O'Brien - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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approve and fully sustain O'Brien's action in refusing to serve, would be to censure O'Connell for serving. In that body a sort of unsatisfactory compromise was made;but the "Eighty-Two Club," where the young party was stronger, voted a warm Address of full approval to O'Brien (who was a member of the Club), and despatched several members to present it to him in his dungeon. I had the honour to be one of that deputation, and the "cellar" was the only part of the Houses of Parliament I ever visited.

The divisions in O'Connell's Association were soon brought to a crisis when the Whigs came in. O'Connell instantly gave up all agitation of the Repeal question, and took measures to separate himself from those "juvenile members" who, as Lord John Russell had asserted, were plotting not only to Repeal the Union, but to sever the connection with England ("the golden link of the crown")—and that by physical force. All this famous controversy seems to me now of marvellously small moment; but I find a very concise narrative of it in Mr O'Brien's words, which will be enough:—

"Negotiations were opened between Mr O'Connell and the Whigs at Chesham-place. 'Young Ireland' protested in the strongest terms against an alliance with the Whigs. Mr O'Connell took offence at the language used by Mr Meagher and others. When I arrived in Dublin, after the resignation of Sir Robert Peel, I learnt that he contemplated a rupture with the writers of the Nation. Before I went to the county of Clare, I communicated, through Mr Ray, a special message to Mr O'Connell, who was then absent from Dublin, to the effect, that though I was most anxious to preserve a neutral position, I could not silently acquiesce in any attempt to expel the Nation or its party from the Association. Next came the Dungarvan election and the new 'moral force' resolutions. I felt it my duty to protest against both at the Kilrush dinner. Upon my return to Dublin, I found a public letter from Mr O'Connell, formally denouncing the Nation; and no alternative was left me but to declare that, if that letter were acted upon, I could not co-operate any longer with the Repeal Association. The celebrated two-day debate then took place. Mr J. O'Connell opened an attack upon the Nation and upon its adherents. Mr Mitchel and Mr Meagher defended themselves in language which, it seemed to me, did not transgress the bounds of decorum or of legal safety. Mr John O'Connell interrupted Mr Meagher in his speech, and declared that he could not allow him to proceed with the line of argument necessary to sustain the principles which had been arraigned. I protested against this interruption. Mr J. O'Connell then gave us to understand that unless Mr Meagher desisted, he must leave the hall. I could not acquiesce in this attempt to stifle a fair discussion, and sooner than witness the departure of Mr J. O'Connell from an association founded by his father, I preferred to leave the assembly." ...continue reading »

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